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O’Neill’s illegal logging: 319 days and counting

May 9, 2014 Leave a comment

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O’Neill’s illegal logging: 318 days and counting…

May 8, 2014 Leave a comment

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It is now 318 days since Prime Minister Peter O’Neill was informed that the SABL leases were unlawful and should be revoked. It was on June 24, 2013 that he was given the reports of the SABL Commission Inquiry.

For 318 days O’Neill has ignored the Commission of Inquiry findings, refused to revoke the SABL leases and been complicit in the illegal logging of forest resources by foreign logging companies.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has aided and abetted the theft of logs worth hundreds of million of kina and the destruction of thousands of hectares of pristine forest.

Read more about who, where and exactly how much is being stolen.

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O’Neill’s illegal logging: Who, where and how much is being stolen?

May 7, 2014 13 comments

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Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has failed to shut down illegal logging operations in thirteen SABL areas despite receiving advice ten months ago that the leases are illegal.

The Prime Minister was told the leases are illegal and received the recommendation they should be revoked in the report of the SABL Commission of Inquiry set up by O’Neill’s predecessor as Prime Minister, Sam Abal. The Commission findings were given to O’Neill in June 2013.

By refusing to act on the Commission of Inquiry recommendations Peter O’Neill has become an accessory to the blatant theft of forest resources.

O’Neill’s illegal logging is currently* taking place in thirteen SABL areas across six Provinces and involves 12 foreign owned logging companies.

Here is the latest PNG Forest Authority data** on who, where and how much is being stolen:***

West Sepik

Bewani Forest Products Limited. Bewani Portion 160C, FCA 10-03, amount stolen in 12 months K23,968,848

Vanimo Jaya Limited, Aitape West Portion 248C, FCA 10-02, amount stolen in 12 months K4,921,479

Westenders Limited, Madedua Ext Mengen, FCA 10-03, amount stolen in 12 months K1,024,585

Jambo Trak Limited, Schotiuhu Cocoa Estate, FCA 10-04, amount stolen in 12 months K14,701,076

East Sepik

Brilliant Investment Limited (Star Avenue), Marienberg (Anogram), FCA 11-02, amount stolen in 12 months K12,554,368

Summit Agriculture Limited, Wewak Turubu, FCA 11-01, amount stolen in 12 months K25,016,573

East New Britain

Cakara Alam Limited (Tzen Niugini), Illi Waswas FCA, 15-02, amount stolen in 12 months K11,630,578

Kerawara Limited (KK Connections) Toria Head Waters, FCA 15-04, amount stolen in 12 months K1,148,365

Rimbunan Hijau Limited (Gilford) Sigite Mukus, FCA 15-07, amount stolen in 12 months K28,429,919

Tian Suyn Limited, Suikol-Makolkol FCA, 15-05, amount stolen in 12 months K10,993,849

New Ireland

Joinland, Umbukal, FCA 16-02 / 16-62 / 16-63, amount stolen in 12 months K18,318,037

Oro

Matufi Limited, Tufi Wanigela, amount stolen in 12 months K1,536,000

West New Britain

Westenders Limited, Lolobao, FCA 14-01, amount stolen in 12 months K13,971,019

* September 2013
** The Log exports are monitored by SGS on behalf of the PNGFA
*** Declared export value of the raw logs

Governments Crushing Their Own

May 6, 2014 Leave a comment

 the police are being used to put down indigenous opposition to the alliance of state and corporate power over resource extraction

Catherine Wilson | Inter Press Service 

In PNG, mineral and gas extraction dominated by multinationals has long been protected by mobile police squads

In PNG, mineral and gas extraction dominated by multinationals has long been protected by mobile police squads

The global spectre of state violence against political dissent, with paramilitary law enforcement units advancing against citizens they are employed to protect in cities such as Cairo, Bangkok and Kiev is daily news. But in some developing countries, the police are being used to put down indigenous opposition to the alliance of state and corporate power over resource extraction.

Indigenous peoples around the world confront dispossession for the extractive industry. When formal avenues to resolve grievances with authorities fail, activism is often met with disproportionate force, unlawful detention and the criminalisation of protest leaders. And perpetrators of state violence invariably enjoy impunity.

Protest is frequently the last resort of those with the least socio-political influence.

Mandeep Tiwana of the CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation based in Johannesburg, tells IPS that the ultimate casualty is peoples’ faith in representative government.

“Failure by the state to hold security forces and other powerful state and non-state entities to account for infringement of democratic freedoms and the right to express legitimate dissent undermines democracy severely,” he says.

The police shooting of 34 striking miners at the Britain-headquartered Lonmin’s platinum mine in Marikana in South Africa in 2012 is seen by many as a watershed moment in contemporary state and corporate brutality.

The same year government forces in Panama deployed rubber bullets and tear gas against Ngabe-Bugle people demonstrating against copper mining on their land, resulting in three deaths.

The police confronted communities rallying in May 2012 against environmental damage and lack of benefits from the Tintaya copper mine in Espinar Province, Peru, owned by Swiss company Xstrata, with two fatalities. Workers Day on May 1 is a reminder of the oppression indigenous people and workers still face around the world.

In the Pacific region, mineral and gas extraction dominated by multinationals has long been protected by mobile police squads. Such action has come often in Papua New Guinea (PNG), where 28 percent of people live below the poverty line.

In recent years, police have been responsible for violent community evictions near the Porgera gold mine in Enga Province, majority owned by Canadian company Barrick Gold, and the fatal killing of a worker who expressed opposition to the PNG LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) project in the highlands.

South Africa, says David van Wyk of the Bench Marks Foundation, “has seen increasing strikes and service delivery protests, many in mine impacted communities.” When authorities fail to address grievances, the issues are left to the police, “which has led to increased police brutality,” he tells IPS.

State violence reflects the critical role of natural resources in national, geopolitical and military power. Many nations including PNG, Guatemala and Nigeria claim state right to subsoil minerals, which can undermine customary land and indigenous peoples’ rights.

But in suppressing local opposition, developing nations also act in the neo-liberal interests of multinationals and foreign stakeholders. At Marikana, state violence in the name of security allowed Lonmin to remain removed from direct responsibility for human rights abuses.

In Nigeria 50 years of oil exploitation in the Niger Delta by companies, including Shell and Chevron Texaco, in alliance with the state has enriched foreign and local elites. Government oil revenues are in excess of 350 billion dollars – while 69 percent of the local Ogoni and Ijaw people live in poverty.

Massive resource rents to the Nigerian state have ensured resourcing of the Joint Military Task Force committed to guarding oil installations and quashing communities angered at marginalisation.

In PNG, mobile police squads have received funding for decades from the Australian government, which has stakes in extractive projects such as the Exxon Mobil joint venture, PNG LNG.

Dr Kristian Lasslett of the International State Crime Initiative, based at King’s College London, says unified local opposition poses a threat to the state-corporate alliance in PNG.

“It would dry up the opportunity structure exploited by a swathe of foreign investors who ignore national laws and local custom, and come as a shock to national businessmen who have proven effective in illegal land grabs and corrupt resource transactions.”

Barrick Gold and Esso Highlands have agreements to provide support to police units in the form of vehicles, accommodation, food and fuel. Clauses indicating that support is conditional on state agencies complying with international standards of conduct are rarely enforced.

Companies “adopt a ‘hear no evil and see no evil’ policy when it comes to state violence,” says Lasslett.

The post-9/11 era has also seen increased use of anti-terrorism measures to deal with grievances. The Guatemalan government used the threat of terrorism to declare a ‘state of siege’ in May last year following demonstrations against the Escobal silver mine in the nation’s southeast. This paved the way for suspending civil liberties and introducing martial law.

Justice for the marginalised is a massive challenge in an era of rising illegitimate power, as described in this year’s State of Power report from the Transnational Institute (TNI). It claims that pervasive corporate influence over governments is a factor in the demise of accountability to the governed, even in democratic nations.

“Corporations, through trade and investment agreements, lobbying and corporate capture of political institutions have also weaved a web of impunity that protects their profits and accountability for human rights and environmental abuses,” TNI researcher Lyda Fernanda tells IPS.

Many states, where oppression occurs, fail to observe international codes of police conduct or their duty to protect citizens’ human rights. Tiwana says international law needs to be supported by national legislation, aided by autonomous human rights and police accountability commissions.

“The law favours those with large reserves of money and those who have the capacity and connections to buttress their claims with forms of evidence that courts accept,” says Lasslett. “This is not to say communities can’t win in the courts, but it is not a terrain on which they hold the advantage.”

He believes that when impunity is supported by corruption and inadequate police complaints procedures, powerful social movements may be the most effective way to defend rights.

“The greatest weapon they [indigenous peoples] have is their own history, culture and customary bonds.”

More empty promises from O’Neill on illegal SABL land grab?

May 3, 2014 3 comments

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Ministerial committee to meet on SABLs

Source: The National, Friday May 2nd, 2014

PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill says a ministerial committee to implement the recommendations from the inquiry into Special Agriculture Business Leases (SABLs) will meet next week.

This follows concerns by Enosh Janduo, the president of the Sausse local level government (LLG) in Yangoru-Saussia district,  East Sepik, during a visit to Yangoru on Wednesday.

Janduo told O’Neill that the people were victims of the SABL where there had been a lot of land grabbing.

“We are concerned about Portion 144C, a piece of land located in the Sepik Plains.

“Landowners who own this piece of land have been stripped off its ownership,” he said.

O’Neill said the implementation of the inquiry’s recommendations would lead to the revocation of many illegal leases.

He said the SABL was introduced to develop the agriculture sector but many abused it and converted it into forestry development.

O’Neill said because of this, the Government set up the inquiry which came up with recommendations.

“Many of these leases and SABLs that were wrongly issued will be cancelled. Many people or landowners have lost the right to their own land because of SABLs,” he said.

Peter O’Neill aiding and abetting the theft of valuable forest resources

In a criminal conspiracy of grand proportions the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, is aiding and abetting the theft of valuable forest resources from customary landowners by Malaysian logging companies.

The value of the logs being stolen every month is more than K14 million, but while common criminals and shoplifters are quickly arrested and beaten by the police, the Royal PNG Constabulary and the corruption watchdog Task Force Sweep are standing by and watching a far far more serious crime.

The SABL Commission of Inquiry found the leases given to logging companies are unlawful and therefore their logging operations are illegal. The Commissioners said of the logging companies:

“They mislead and deceive landowners with the assistance of corrupt government officials”

But Peter O’Neill has failed to take any action to stop the illegal logging or cancel the fraudulent leases. As a result logs worth millions of kina are being stolen and shipped overseas every month.

In the 12 months to October 2013 the value of the logs stolen from SABL areas and shipped overseas, according to SGS and the PNG Forest Authority, was over K170 million kina.

That is K170 million stolen in just one year – and it is still on-going!

That is just the value of the raw logs. It takes no account of the environmental destruction caused by the logging operation, the loss of gardens and wildlife or the eventual value of the timber once sawn.

The Prime Minister was given the Commission of Inquiry reports on 24 June last year (2013) but for 10 long months he has done nothing but offer empty promises.

In September the Prime Minister presented the reports in Parliament and said they revealed:

“a shocking trend of mismanagement and corruption”

He went on to say:

“Mr Speaker, this government is going to start protecting landowners and the environment. We will no longer watch on as foreign owned companies come in and con our landowners, chop down our forests and then take the proceeds offshore”

This was 8 months ago, since then Peter O’Neill has done NOTHING!

On November 5 last year, Mr O’Neill went on radio and said he had appointed a Ministerial Committee to review the CoI recommendations and report back within 2 months.

But nothing has happened and the illegal logging is still continuing.

PNG’s Criminal Code makes very clear that it is an offence to aid the commission of any crime and that those who are accessories, who allow a crime to continue or assist in any way, are just as guilty as the primary offenders.

How much longer are we going to sit back and watch the Prime Minister and his political cronies stealing our valuable forest resources…?

 

Peter O’Neill aiding and abetting the theft of valuable forest resources

May 2, 2014 Leave a comment

peter-o-neill

In a criminal conspiracy of grand proportions the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, is aiding and abetting the theft of valuable forest resources from customary landowners by Malaysian logging companies.

The value of the logs being stolen every month is more than K14 million, but while common criminals and shoplifters are quickly arrested and beaten by the police, the Royal PNG Constabulary and the corruption watchdog Task Force Sweep are standing by and watching a far far more serious crime.

The SABL Commission of Inquiry found the leases given to logging companies are unlawful and therefore their logging operations are illegal. The Commissioners said of the logging companies:

“They mislead and deceive landowners with the assistance of corrupt government officials”

But Peter O’Neill has failed to take any action to stop the illegal logging or cancel the fraudulent leases. As a result logs worth millions of kina are being stolen and shipped overseas every month.

In the 12 months to October 2013 the value of the logs stolen from SABL areas and shipped overseas, according to SGS and the PNG Forest Authority, was over K170 million kina.

That is K170 million stolen in just one year – and it is still on-going!

That is just the value of the raw logs. It takes no account of the environmental destruction caused by the logging operation, the loss of gardens and wildlife or the eventual value of the timber once sawn.

The Prime Minister was given the Commission of Inquiry reports on 24 June last year (2013) but for 10 long months he has done nothing but offer empty promises.

In September the Prime Minister presented the reports in Parliament and said they revealed:

“a shocking trend of mismanagement and corruption”

He went on to say:

“Mr Speaker, this government is going to start protecting landowners and the environment. We will no longer watch on as foreign owned companies come in and con our landowners, chop down our forests and then take the proceeds offshore”

This was 8 months ago, since then Peter O’Neill has done NOTHING!

On November 5 last year, Mr O’Neill went on radio and said he had appointed a Ministerial Committee to review the CoI recommendations and report back within 2 months.

But nothing has happened and the illegal logging is still continuing.

PNG’s Criminal Code makes very clear that it is an offence to aid the commission of any crime and that those who are accessories, who allow a crime to continue or assist in any way, are just as guilty as the primary offenders.

How much longer are we going to sit back and watch the Prime Minister and his political cronies stealing our valuable forest resources…?

Sarawak’s WTK Slammed For Land Grabs In Papua New Guinea

May 1, 2014 Leave a comment

Sarawak Report

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A new report by the global NGO OXFAM has identified the Sarawak crony logging company WTK as one of the main land-grabbing companies illegally destroying the rain forests of Papua New Guinea and stealing the lands and livelihoods of the native people.

New Oxfam report links Sarawak’s WTK to destruction in PNG.

New Oxfam report links Sarawak’s WTK to destruction in PNG.

The report specifically attacks Australian banks which have been willing to turn a blind eye to the law breaking and environmentally devastating activities of rogue companies such as WTK by lending them money.

This not only breaks the codes of conduct that such banks are always fond of boasting to their customers about, they break the law.

Banks are bound by duties of due diligence to make sure they are not funding or supporting unlawful or corrupt behaviour or the money laundering of illegal profits.

Yet time and again, the world over, global financial institutions are ignoring these duties and turning a blind eye to the exploitation of vulnerable people and world heritage environments like Papua New Guinea by crook companies such as WTK.

How Sarawak’s logging companies have become a world menace

WTK is just one of the Taib connected crony logging companies that made their money out of destroying Sarawak and are now expanding their operations throughout the remaining tropical timber areas of the world.

WTK has been slammed for causing detrimental impacts on the Turubu community in PNG’s East Sepik provence.

WTK has been slammed for causing detrimental impacts on the Turubu community in PNG’s East Sepik provence.

These highly vulnerable areas with largely defenceless populations are under assault from Malaysian logging and plantation concerns from Indonesia to the Congo and the Amazon.

Made rich from the rape of Sarawak they are taking their same corrupt business methods to these regions and using their huge funds to bribe and bully their way into concessions, most of which turn out to be bogus and illegal.

A company controlled by Taib’s cousin, Ta Ann boss Hamed Sepawi, grasped nearly a quarter of the largest remaining area of the Liberian rainforest before his activities were exposed and he was chucked out by Presidential decree. Sepawi has also been involved in some highly controversial dealings in Tasmania, which has made his company the single driving force behind the destruction of the island’s remaining wild forests.

Environmental activists have been protesting Ta Ann’s logging activities in Tasmania’s old growth forests.

Environmental activists have been protesting Ta Ann’s logging activities in Tasmania’s old growth forests.

Likewise, Samling have been operating illegally in Guyana and one of the Directors of Sarawak’s Asian Plantations, an American ex-driving instructor called Denis Melka, is currently pouring money into controversial and illegal deforestation in Peru.

Rimbunan Hijau is busy destroying Papua New Guinea as well and Malaysian companies are up to their neck in illegal deforestation and plantations in Kalimantan.

These are just a few examples and Sarawak Report plans to produce a global list of logging shame showing just how destructive the logging companies of Sarawak have become now that they have finished with destroying their home state and gone global.

Meanwhile, sitting like a spider at the centre of this web of global environmental devastation is the Godfather of Global Timber Corruption himself, Taib Mahmud.

Former Chief Minister Taib Mahmud made sure he and his family members got the lions share of land grabs in Sarawak.

Former Chief Minister Taib Mahmud made sure he and his family members got the lions share of land grabs in Sarawak.

This former Chief Minister was the man who made sure he got the lions share out of every destructive and greedy land grab that these companies enjoyed in their home state and he also made sure that he and his family members were granted shares in the companies concerned, so that as they go global he continues to reap the rewards.

Take a look at the shareholders of WTK for example and see how Taib’s two daughters Jamilah and Hanifah (through their company Majaharta) own a healthy chunk of WTK.

Do we think that Canadian national Jamilah, who claims that none of her money is made out of exploiting her own homeland, really negotiated this ‘passive investment’ or do we think it had something to do with the deals and kickbacks arranged by her Dad.

The Oxfam Report “Banking On Shaky Ground” can be read here.

Long time resident not happy with forced eviction by Rimbunan Hijau

April 26, 2014 1 comment

Lina Gawi, from Geborobi village in the East Sepik Province, settled in Bumbu when her daughter was seven years of age. Now she is a mother of 5 adult children, She was not very happy when the bulldozer belonging to RH bulldozed the area which they called home for the past 40 years,

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Lina said we have no where to go as this was our home.  We left our original village at a very young age and now we cant go back. Our home is here. We planted coconut trees and bettlenut trees and mango tree’s etc.

Lina cried as she spoke and she is still mourning at the unfair treatment done to her home.

Lina and the other families like hers, have nowhere to go so they are living in makeshift houses waiting the outcome of a court case.

Lina said they treated us like animals and we know our human rights have been violated to a great extent.

In the photos of Lina she is now washing clothes and drying them at the place where her house used to be.

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PNG police wont investigate Australian ‘speculator’ but will take his money

April 25, 2014 2 comments

The Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary has just announced a ‘generous’ donation of K20,000 from the Paga Hill Development Company (PHDC), a concern run by Australian businessman Gudmundur Fridriksson.

Gummi FridrikssonAccording to the Public Accounts Committee, PHDC – labelled a ‘foreign speculator’ by the committee – acquired the contested land at Paga Hill through ‘corrupt dealings’. The Lands Department Secretary informed the Committee he could not forfeit the company’s illegally acquired state lease because it would place, ‘the security of my officers in jeopardy’.

Despite PHDC’s chequered history the RPNGC’s media unit proudly proclaims:

‘Acting Assistant Commissioner Reforms Joanne Clarkson today thanked the Paga Hill Development Company for its timely donation of K20,000 which enable the Constabulary to send policewomen to participate in the Australasian Police & Emergency Services Games in Melbourne, Australia’.

It seems pertinent to ask where this K20,000 came from. Was it from the:

  • K2.5 million the national government paid Fridriksson for Destination Papua New Guinea, a book (yes K2.5 million for a book!) riddled with what Sean Dorney calls ‘appalling mistakes’
  • K1,966,677 which the Auditor General alleges CCS Anvil – a company owned by Fridriksson and PHDC shareholder George Hallitt – wrongfully seized from the sale of deceased PNG estates, when advising the Public Curators Office (CCS Anvil has acted as PHDC’s ‘project director’).
  • K4,872,375 in ‘unlawful’ payments made to CCS Anvil by the Public Curators Office.
  • K79,500 in unlawful payments  – according to the Auditor General and Public Accounts Committee – made by the East Sepik Provincial government made to CCS Anvil
  • K375,799 in unlawful payments made by the Parliamentary Service to CCS Anvil (documented by the Public Accounts Committee)

Perhaps if the police did their job and followed up more often on Auditor General/Public Accounts Committee findings they would not have to rely on ‘donations’ from those named and shamed in public accounting reports.

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Rimbunan Hijau evicts Bumbu residents in Lae

April 24, 2014 1 comment
Bumbu eviction site

Bumbu eviction site

Thirty houses in the Bumbu settlement in Lae were forcibly removed and the families evicted 2 months ago with all the trees bulldozed. The residents are now living in tents, waiting for a better response from the company involved and the government.

The residents have found out that Malaysian logging company Rimbunan Hijau has bought off the piece of land that they have been living on for the last 40- 50 years. Now these long-term residents have nowhere to go.

They say their human rights have been violated and the government seriousely needs to pay attention to how they have been treated by Rimbunan Hijau who has been using PNG Forest Product’s name to evict them.

The families were originally compensated with K1000 to each household and 12 plywood sheets each to rebuld their homes on a new site. But their question is where will they build their new houses when they have been living in Bumbu for the last 50 years and they have no where else to go.

A court case is underway against PNG Forest Products and Rimbunan Hijau to try and stop what ever they are trying to do and to force them to give a good response to the people who they have over looked to satisfy their own self interest and who  find themselves living in tents for almost 2 months now.

Rumours have it that the logging giant Rimbunan Hijau is planning to build a wharf on the site.

Rimbuan Hijau has already been found guilty in the SABL Commission of Inquiry of conspiring with the Department of Lands Acting Secretary, Romily Kila Pat, to illegally obtain land for a wharf in Port Moresby:

Rimbunan Hijau, Kila Pat and the unlawful Port Moresby wharf 

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